I find that I am constantly tweaking and revising lessons from year to year. Heck, I make revisions as I move month to month and week to week in a given school year. I’m never satisfied. I am certain that if I could just change the way a given assignment asked a question, my students would be able to understand a topic better. I think that if I frame reflection in a new way, fifth graders will immediately become self-aware. I’m not always successful at it, but that doesn’t mean I don’t try.
Last year I wrote for Choice Literacy on my weekly reflection grade in my language arts class. I wanted to find a way to give students credit for all the amazing reading and writing they were doing during the week. I also wanted them to have to reflect on their own reading and writing. What were they doing well? What did they need to work on in the coming week? This is what our weekly reflection sheet has evolved into this year:
For the last six years, I’ve asked my students to read for 20 minutes a night. Two years ago I added, "Write for 10 minutes" to that nightly assignment. What they read and wrote was up to them. This year I changed that assignment just slightly. I asked them to make a goal of reading for 20 minutes and writing for 10. However, I recognized that life is sometimes busy. If they absolutely struggled to find the time one night, they should find a way to add time another. I thought, at first, that fifth graders wouldn’t be able to make this work and that they would take advantage of it. But I wanted to move away from the sit with the timer and read idea. I wanted reading and writing just to be something they did. After one quarter of the year had passed, I decided I will never go back. Far more students are assimilating reading and writing into their life as a natural occurrence than ever before. It’s amazing.
On the first page, I simply ask them to jot down what they read and wrote that night. If they didn’t, they just write “skip." We don’t keep track of time or pages. If my students were old enough for Goodreads accounts, I would likely use that instead. I want to have all of our work feel authentic, and this isn’t quite what I do in my own life, but it’s close. Then comes the reflection piece. At the end of the week, I ask the students to reflect on what they did, how they’ve grown, and what they want to do for next week. By far, this is the hardest part for them. They aren’t born with the ability to reflect. I think the growth I’ve seen in this area can be attributed to the fact that I fill this sheet out each week too, and I show them what I write. I’m constantly modeling reflection for them and setting goals for myself. It is a work in progress.
As I move to the back of our weekly reflection piece, you will see a spot for my students to take charge of their independent work time. I’m always looking for ways for them to monitor themselves. By filling out this chart, they can look and say, “I spent a lot of time this week on Padlet. Next week I need to write more.” If they don’t make these reflections themselves, I write them a note about what I notice when they turn the sheet in on Friday.
Finally, on the bottom is the spot for grading. There is the potential for three separate grades:
We have a weekly grade on the reflection sheet.
We have a journal grade every other week. This is simply a journal check. They place two sticky notes on two writing pieces from the past two weeks that they would like me to assess. They jot a quick note to let me know why they’ve selected those two pieces.
Finally, they have one blog entry due per month. They are welcome to blog as much or as little as they’d like, but at the end of the month, there should be one entry to grade. If they’ve blogged more than once that month, they need to choose the entry they would like graded and let me know.
Overall I’m very happy with our new reflection sheet. I’ve noticed the difference with the students in increased organization and accountability. They are beginning to own their learning, which is my ultimate goal. I hope that by giving them more freedom, letting them make choices for their own learning, they will continue to find the combination that works best for them. I’m certain there will be more tweaks to our Friday reflection sheet throughout the year, but for now, it is doing everything I need it to do.